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Oracle keeps on buying into SOA

by Keith Rodgers
April 4th, 2005

Oracle may still be one acquisition short of a comprehensive SOA strategy after its takeover of Oblix last week.

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Buying Oblix has plugged important gaps in Oracle's SOA strategy, putting it temporarily ahead of competitors IBM, HP and SAP:
  • This is Oracle's second SOA acquisition within a year
  • As well as identity and access, Oblix brings strengths in SOA policy management
  • Its products will help Oracle manage security and services across multiple platforms
  • Rival vendors IBM, HP and SAP have not yet shipped equivalent products
  • Oracle already has a UDDI registry product but still lacks a services messaging layer

Glossary terms: SOA, services management, systems management, UDDI, BPEL, lookup tool

Buying Oblix helps plug an important gap in the vendor's strategy and gives it a short-term edge over rivals such as IBM, HP and SAP. But a third acquisition — the first was web services orchestration specialist Collaxa, acquired in June last year — may be required before it can complete its SOA offering.

Although most assessments of the acquisition have focused on identity and access management, which was the core of Oblix's business, the takeover also gives Oracle a strong SOA management offering. Oblix itself had entered the SOA space a little over a year ago through the takeover of Confluent Software, and its renamed COREsv product set was recognized as being strong in policy management. The company was identified as a leader in Loosely Coupled's recently-published SOA Management 2005 Report.

In a conference call the day after the announcement, Thomas Kurian, senior vice president of Oracle Server Technologies, said Oracle would continue with Oblix's development plans for COREsv, and stressed that one of the value propositions of the deal was to bridge the management of security and services. Part of the strategy Oblix had outlined prior to the acquisition was to rebuild its identity management functionality this year as web services. That would allow customers to manage all of their policies from one central console, whether user authorizations for identity access or service level agreements for web services. Kurian added that prior to the acquisition, Oracle already had an initiative under way to expose a number of the capabilities that support web services within its Application Server so that it could hook in a management tool.

Recognizing that customers had middleware from different vendors, Kurian also stressed that Oracle was committed to letting customers manage and support web services built both on Oracle and other platforms. For a company whose application software strategy has long promoted the concept of Oracle everywhere, that emphasis on heterogeneity represents something of a change of heart — a change that was inevitable, of course, given that Oracle now owns several components of a heterogeneous application environment through its recent takeover of PeopleSoft and its subsidiary JD Edwards. Kurian said the Oblix acquisition marks a first step in Oracle's Fusion project — which ultimately aims to combine the PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Oracle product lines — by providing capability for single sign-on between different systems.

Management competitors
In the SOA management perspective, Oracle will now find itself coming up against services management specialists such as Amberpoint, SOA Software (formerly Digital Evolution) and Actional, as well as systems management giants such as Computer Associates, IBM and HP, which see web services management as simply one component of a broader management strategy.

In the short term, its move could put some pressure on the latter, which have been slow to deliver product. Computer Associates, which acquired Adjoin Solutions in the summer of 2003, only put an enhanced version of its CA WSDM product on general release in December 2004, while HP, which also entered the market in 2003 through the acquisition of Talking Blocks, has still to release its own SOA management suite. IBM is also gradually building out a product set based on its Tivoli systems management suite and WebSphere integration product set, at the same time as offering product from AmberPoint and SOA Software through IBM Global Services. In the long term, however, these vendors should retain an upper hand in the enterprise management space if Oracle continues to pursue its entrenched policy of focusing on its own application, database and infrastructure stack.

The move does, however, give Oracle an edge in the enterprise applications market over arch-rival SAP in terms of SOA management capability. SAP recently announced the first steps in a three-year master project to service-enable functionality across all its applications. But last November, the company conceded to Loosely Coupled that it could take six months to a year to finalize its SOA management strategy, and it's not yet clear exactly when product will be released during the three-year SOA roadmap. The company is wrestling with the question of where to draw the line between what it manages internally and what it passes over to third party management tools.

In the meantime, Oracle itself still has one or two gaps to fill in its SOA strategy. Oracle Application Server incorporates web services management capabilities for auditing, logging, basic lifecycle management and deployment. In addition, the company owns a UDDI Registry, and recent acquisitions have helped it flesh out other core components of its SOA product set, including last June's takeover of Collaxa for BPEL-based orchestration. The main hole today, however, is that it currently has no messaging layer. Judging by the speed at which it's acquiring companies both to drive through industry consolidation and fill tactical gaps in its portfolio, a takeover in that field must be likely.

Oracle wasn't fast enough, though, to capture one potential candidate, snapped up only last month by one of Oblix's competitors: SOA Software acquired ThoughtDigital, which provides a web services messaging infrastructure to integrate applications with the Oracle E-Business Suite.

More on this topic


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Why Oracle bought Oblix
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Oblix joins Oracle
Oracle web page with links to resources about its acquisition of Oblix.

SOA Software Acquires ThoughtDigital
Press release announcing SOA Software's acquisition of Oracle messaging specialist ThoughtDigital

Oracle Delivers First Complete SOA and Integration Platform; Announces Oracle BPEL Process Manager
Press release announcing acquisition of Collaxa and initial launch of SOA strategy


SOA Management Report 2005
Detailed evaluations of 14 SOA management vendors including Oracle/Oblix, IBM, HP, Computer Associates, Amberpoint, SOA Software, Actional, plus case studies of five early adopters and a detailed market overview.


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